If you ask me, tamales are soul food, a deliciously fitting addition to the traditional must-have items served in my family around the holidays.
Black-eyed peas and collard greens are laboriously picked, prepped, and passed around the table to loved ones, bringing prosperity into the new year.
by: Ebony Ann Blaze
Born to southern parents, I was raised in Santa Barbara, California, a city offering its Chumash, Spanish, and Mexican history on the same celebratory platter with all diverse cultures living there. It’s much like Los Angeles, my current home for 11 years, where you can find a world of cuisine sprinkled on all sides of the city.
Local or traveling to LA? Check out one of Kimberly’s favorite restaurants, Crossroads Kitchen.
Julia’s Vegan Tamales, located in the heart of Boyle Heights, California, is an ancestral plant-based catering company that offers several cooking workshops.
At the beginning of the year, I attended the Intro to Tamales: Soyrizo session, and enjoyed a fun, culturally-diverse gathering of chefs, artists, traveling professionals, and foodies.
The sounds of Cesar Chavez Avenue poured through open windows as we discussed a brief history of Julia’s and the origin of the tamal we would learn to make. We were introduced to the ingredients and shown how to fill and wrap Soyrizo into a banana leaf for steaming. We also prepared vegan Mole Veracruzano, a thick sauce made with dried chili, aromatic spices, herbs and chocolate, often enjoyed over tamales.
My experience at this workshop was moving. It was a moment to be fully present and participate in a thorough blending of timeless cultural tradition, shared space, and pleasant conversation paired with the language, aromas, and flavors pumping the heart of those in the neighborhood.
It was a reminder of how interconnected and similar we are, despite the stories we believe, or the walls and devices threatening to separate us.
Every culture can relate to some version of its elders bringing family together, passing down recipes and cooking knowledge to the younger generations.
Food brings people together in the warmest way.
Aren’t we most alive when we are able to reach beyond our private, busy, virtual lives to break bread with others?
Tamales were introduced to me as a child, through friends who shared meals, along with their family traditions of coming together to assemble large quantities of this compact, complete meal.
A single tamal is quick and easy to devour, but can be quite tedious to prepare from scratch, making special occasions and holidays a common time to bring home a few dozen.
If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and make tamales at home, you will first need vegan-friendly Masa dough.
Many stores sell prepared masa for tamales which contain lard, but with a bit of research, you can find prepared vegetarian masa anywhere tortillas are made.
If you wish to make your own, you should have no problem finding masa flour at your local market, along with a plant-based shortening, baking powder, salt, and herbs of your choice to flavor and bind the dough.
Once mixed, you’re ready to form and fill the masa with your favorite flavors, like sautéed vegetables, savory mushrooms or legumes, sweet spiced fruits, or nut paste.
While you’re at it, try this Coconut Water Horchata recipe!
Julia’s Vegan Tamales shared a few mouth-watering recipes for you to try with friends at home. Here’s one of my favorites.
Oyster Mushroom Tamales
- 1 lb. of veggie tamale masa
- 4 sheets banana leaf (6 in x 6 in)
- 12 sauteed slices of tomatoes
- 4 large oyster mushrooms
- 4 oz. plant-based cheese shreds
- spoon or icing spatula
- medium saucepan
- 4 sheets aluminum (6 in x 6 in)
- Place foil on flat surface
- Place banana leaf on foil (silky side facing you)
- Add 4 oz. masa to banana leaf
- Place 3 Tomato slices on Masa
- Place 1 oyster mushroom atop tomatoes
- Spread 1 oz. plant-based cheese over mushroom
- Holding two opposite sides of the banana leaf, fold inward to wrap its contents.
- Do the same for remaining sides
- Wrap your tamale in foil tightly
- Place to the side, and make 3 more tamales.
- Place 4 tamales in a medium saucepan with boiling water and remove after 20-25 minutes.
Love Mexican food but want to skip the meat? Check out our favorite vegan Mexican recipes!
About The Author
Ebony Ann Blaze is a vocal artist in love with storytelling through song. She is owner and head coach at Sing Your Best Self, and an advocate for empowerment through creativity and live performance. Enjoy live music? Check out her website and sign up for live show invites.
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